We followed the usual traditions, spending New Year’s Eve at Verses…
(There might have been wine involved), only this time with a friend. A lovely four-course meal, the highlights of which were probably the cold foie gras we all started with, and the champagne-poached oyster appetizer I had to follow.
We spent a mellow New Year’s Day (well, I did—Jean actually went canoeing in the rain).
Then on Monday, we did that slightly crazy multi-course cooking thing we do. The Monday actually being the day before we had to go back to work, though, we did scale it back a little, starting the dining at an earlier time, and only attempting three courses this year.
Appetizer: Mussels and clams with lemon grass
This was from a book by Christine Ingram called Appetizers, Starters and Buffet Foods, which I took out of the library. (Did I mention we have library in walking distance now? Me likie.) Though the ingredients sounded delicious—the seafood steamed in a broth of lemon grass, white wine, lime, and coconut cream, the instructions didn’t really make sense. It said to put in the wine with seasonings and cook it until it was almost gone, then add the seafood, then take out the cooked seafood, and reduce what was left by half. How can you reduce nothing by half?
Anyway, so this ended up a free-wheeling improvisation, especially since I also had to use lemon grass in a tube, fresh limes rather than “kaffir lime leaves”, and coconut milk with coffee cream rather than coconut cream. And since we were also in the middle of cooking the main course when we had to start this (it’s just how these meals work), it was a little stressful.
Fortunately, it turned out delicious!
A few of the mussels and clams might have ended up a bit overcooked, but most had a really nice texture, and the broth tasted amazing. We had about three pounds of seafood here, and we ate every bite.
The wine it cooked in was an Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc, but for serving, we went with a Stratus 2006 White, which is a rich white blend. It was nice and complex, and definitely involved some Chardonnay. (Website says: Also Sauvignon Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Semillon and Viognier.)
Main course: Cider and honey roast leg of lamb with crisp roasted potatoes and caramelized Brussels sprouts
Three recipes here. The meat was a Gordon Ramsey offering (and also a library acquisition), and never having cooked leg of lamb before, I followed the recipe pretty much exactly. It basically involved roasting the leg with garlic, thyme, and apple, and basting it with honey and cider. Really not too difficult; you just have to allow 2—2.5 hours to get it done.
The only thing that didn’t particular work was the gravy, which he claimed could be produced from the leftover cider with added chicken broth—with no thickener. He claimed that it cooked down to the proper consistency, but there was a ton of liquid! So we just used it runny. It tasted good, but was definitely more bouillon than gravy, to me.
The potato recipe was from Cook’s Country magazine. In their usual method, they had tested and experimented until they came up with the perfect technique for producing a crispy texture on the outside, and a creamy texture on the inside. But we couldn’t follow that, because we had only one oven, and I decided that it was more important that the meat cook at the proper temperature than the potatoes.
And the Brussels sprout recipe was courtesy of Gwyneth Paltrow’s My father’s daughter, a Christmas gift. It was a quick recipe we could do after eating the seafood, while awaiting the meat: You basically steam the Brussels sprouts for seven minutes, then cut them in half and sear each side in olive oil, and serve with lemon juice, more olive oil, and coarse salt.
We had a good year; this all turned out well also. (Though I couldn’t eat that entire plate, above.) Despite their lack of perfectly crispy exterior, the potatoes were very good—Jean thought they were the highlight. The meat was tasty and tender. And strangely, it tasted even better the next day, when we had it as a leftover.
The Brussels sprout recipe was intended to make converts of those who don’t like Brussels sprouts, and I could see that. As Jean said, they kind of ended up not tasting like Brussels sprouts very much. They were good, but since we actually like Brussels sprouts, maybe they didn’t need all the disguise.
We served it with a wine that we picked up in California, a 2004 Bartholomew Park Cabernet Sauvignon. It was very nice, full and fruity but still with some tannins.
Dessert: Praline cream pie
This is from Cooking Light magazine. It wasn’t difficult, but it was involved, as you had to make the crust, then let that cool, then make the praline layer, and let that cool, then make the cream, and (you guessed it) let that cool, then put the whole thing together and chill it for a long time. So I started that in the morning, and we ate it around 8:30 or 9:00, and it still wasn’t completely set.
On the other hand, it was nice to have dessert out of the way early, so that last part of dining could be quite relaxed. And slightly runny or not, it was really very good. Like a lighter sugar pie, maybe?
We had that with a Peller Estate Ice Cuvée, a lovely blend of ice and sparkling wine.